Last week I talked about the importance of crafting a well thought out goal. How to make it big enough to be scary, but specific enough so that you can make a clear plan of action. Both of these aspects are critical if you want to accomplish a goal or resolution. If you missed it, check it out here.
This week I’m discussing the techniques you can use to help you follow through with your resolution. Goals and resolutions are awesome, but if you don’t actually take action on them, they’re just cleverly written dreams. Hope is very motivating, but it won’t actually accomplish your goals for you.
And while hope and optimism won’t actually do the work for you, don’t underestimate how motivating they can be. Motivation and positive emotions stem from fresh starts like a new year. While I had given up making resolutions years ago — because they never worked out (more on this in a moment) — I always find the new year energizing.
My resolutions never worked out because I wasn’t specific enough in my goals, and never made a plan of action about how to accomplish them. Now that I know that there is science behind that surge of positivity that comes with New Year’s I will be making resolutions again. But this time they were be clearly thought out, specifically written, and with a game plan behind them.
MAKE IT INTENSE
This fresh start energy can be used to help you focus intensely on your goal. Don’t be afraid to use this energy to immerse yourself in your resolution. It might seem a little intense, but consider it your jumpstart. Seeing some early progress will help you feel even more motivated to keep going, and being really consistent will help your brain start the process of making it a habit.
A word of caution, though — don’t burn yourself out. It’s easy to be super gung ho about a goal you’re excited to accomplish. But if you overdo it in the early days, it can cause you to give up early. Like working out so hard your first day that you’re so sore you can’t go back to the gym for a week (btdt!).
If you’re excited to learn a new skill certainly spend as much time as you like immersed in everything about it. However, if it starts to interfere with your life or starts to feel like a chore, you’re headed for burn out. Be ok with it not happening all at once, you have plenty of time to get there.
MAKE TIME FOR IT
If your plate is extremely full, but your resolution is to do more charity work, you’re going to have to find time to make that happen. As much as we’d like to believe that time to do so will just present itself because we want it to — it doesn’t work that way.
Any goal that you want to achieve is going to take some time out of your day or week or month. And nothing says you don’t really want to accomplish something more than NOT making time for it.
If the goal you have in mind is really important to you, then take time to examine your calendar and fit it in. Write it in as a real appointment and don’t blow it off. And if you can’t make space for it, that might mean it’s time to give up something that isn’t as important to you.
The new year is a great time to examine what’s important to you and what is no longer serving you. Assess your goals for the year and look at what activities you have chosen to do. Make sure that all the things that are on your calendar are serving you and your goals.
Anything that isn’t helping you in some meaningful way can be dropped to make space for what’s more important to you.
MAKE IT FUN
We have been told over and over that those that are willing to delay gratification are the ones that will be more successful in the future. The ubiquitous marshmallow test taught us that the kids that could resist the temptation of a marshmallow for 15 minutes so that they could get 2, were the kids that would be more successful in school.
Sure this logic might work with things like saving vs. spending money — but it doesn’t work for everything. A study done where people were surveyed whether they enjoyed their workouts or not showed that those that enjoyed them spent more time working out and did so more often — regardless of whether or not they cared about the long term health benefits of exercise.
Your resolution might be to exercise more in the new year because of the long term benefits, but unless you make it something that you enjoy, you’re unlikely to stick with it. To keep your resolution, find a way to make it fun.
Continuing with the exercise example — if you’re a social person, take a class. If you like sports, join a team. Don’t just slog it out on a treadmill because you feel like you have to — there are tons of ways to make your resolution fun.
MAKE IT TEMPTING
Who doesn’t love a good night of Netflix and chill? The problem is that if you spend too much time binge watching you’re not going to have time to get much done. But oftentimes binge watching your favorite show is likely to be far more entertaining than say meal prepping your healthy food for the week or cleaning the house.
This is the perfect chance for you to tie your guilty pleasure to the “work” of your goal. One study showed that those who were allowed to listen to tempting audiobooks ONLY when they were at the gym working out were more likely to keep coming back to the gym.
If you allow yourself to binge watch Netflix while running on the treadmill or listen to your favorite romance novel while cleaning the house, you’re more likely to keep up with it.
In another study that was done people were given a goal to hit. Some groups got it easy, some got it hard, and some got it hard, but were told they were allowed to miss a few days — which made them equivalent to the easy group. This third group is the one that had the most success.
Figuring out whether to make your action plan easy or hard is always a tough call. But according to this research you should do both. Make the plan tough, but possible, but if you miss the mark a little, be ok with that.
Perhaps your resolution is to learn a new language using an app. Maybe it would be tough for you to get it in every day, but you could find a way. Try making your plan 7 days a week, but allow yourself perhaps 2 days a week to skip if you just can’t squeeze it in.
You’re likely to have more success this way than you would if you had just planned on 5 days a week in the first place.
MAKE IT FLEXIBLE
Have you ever set out to accomplish one thing and accomplished something totally different — and possibly more wonderful — instead?
Did you know that YouTube was conceived as a dating program? How about that post it notes were created while trying to invent a stronger glue? Even Play-Doh was invented while trying to create a wall paper cleaner.
Approaching your goals and resolutions with flexibility and curiosity allows you the freedom to follow your interests and still be (and feel) successful. Maybe you start working out thinking you want to train to run a marathon, but discover you’re enjoying that yoga you’re doing as cross training way more than the running.
There is no point in doggedly pursuing your original running goal just because you wrote it down in January. Spend more time doing the yoga if that’s what makes you happy. Either way you will be healthier than if you hadn’t started working out in the first place – and wasn’t that really the objective?
Resolutions and goals don’t just happen because we want them to. In order to make them a reality we need to create an action plan and stick to it. Use some of these tricks to help you do the actions that get you to your goals.
If you’re struggling to get to the goals you want to achieve or even to be able to figure out what you want to achieve — please send me a message. Coaching with me is a great way to figure out what you want and how to get there.